Monday, September 29, 2008

Kitchen, before pics

Oh, and a picture of my dear husband and poor Mao, yesterday - a much happier day for being Mao.




For those who expressed an interest (ie. Jeri), here are a couple of pictures of my kitchen before the paint job. So, hopefully, in a few weeks I'll have some after shots. I've started with the cabinets (which I blogged about this morning), then plan to do the walls in pretty green and yellow.


Romans 1: 18-23

Folks are finally beginning to acknowledge what science has become for them. Check out the Atheon:

http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/09/can-science-rep.html?npu=1&mbid=yhp

Not my ordinary Monday morning

What I've done so far this morning, in reverse order, starting now:

  • Sit down to type this.
  • Fight back tears.
  • Thank God the furniture's okay.
  • Open the mail (good and bad news).
  • Move the sprinkler.
  • Scrub the kitchen counters.
  • Scrub in the sink the most comfortable shoes ever, which I've owned for less than 12 hours.
  • Put a load of paint stained towels in the washer.
  • Put my favorite, and thankfully now clean, $60 shorts in the dryer.
  • Scrub the shower with stainless steel scouring pad.
  • Scrub the kitchen floor (with same steel pad), in underwear & ruined t-shirt.
  • Scrub the kitchen chair.
  • Sop up with towels puddles of black latex paint from the kitchen chair and floor & along the path into the living room with one hand, while holding a tightly towel-wrapped soaking wet somewhat cleaner cat. (Mao)
  • Fight and wash squirming, shaking, splattering, black-paint covered cat in bath tub and get self and shower completely covered with watered down black latex paint.
  • Breathe an unitelligible prayer for some kind of grace to deal with this.
  • Pick up paint soaked cat.
  • Hear crash, see and feel paint flying on and around me and say, "Oh NO, oh NO, oh NO!!!" while looking for whatever creature was responsible, and hoping beyond hope it didn't run in a panic up and over everthing in the house. Finding Mao dripping from head to toe with paint, in the living room.
  • Set up open can of black paint, on a towel, on a surface the cats have never, ever been known to jump up on, and painted 1/2 of one cabinet.
What I need to do next:

  • Pray
  • Move the sprinkler.
  • Throw away my ruined T-shirt.
  • Take a bath.
  • Finish painting the cabinets - at the very least the one I started over 2 hours ago.
  • Figure out how to get black latex foot prints out of carpet.

Question: Will a claw wound from a black latex soaked cat claw become a tatoo?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The greatest legacy of Paul Newman

I just learned of the news of Paul Newman's death. I don't know why this one in particular brought tears to my eyes. He was a generation ahead of me. I guess it's because he was a class act, a legend, whose name and blue eyes I've known all my life - now no longer living.

But after reading a tribute to his life, his movies, his racing, his business, his massive donations to charity, what really impressed me was one quote. When asked about the secret to the success of his 50 year marriage to actress Joanne Woodward, he had this to say:

"Why fool around with hamburger when you have steak at home?"

Saturday

Today I have the day off; and Paul's at work. I slept in until nearly 10:00 because I've been needing the sleep for a few weeks now, and have felt a cold coming on since yesterday morning. I keep hoping it's just the allergies that come with the change of season around here (so many trees and molds doing their things to my sinuses), but it's beginning to feel like more than that.

Anyway, I'm surrounded with laundry, and books. So I think I'll invest the better part of today on the book business, and laundry. Then maybe on Monday I'll feel free to start painting the kitchen.

Here's the thing. I bought all the paint for the kitchen, including a gallon of the glossiest, whitest white I could find for the cabinets and trim. And now I've changed my mind and decided to do the cabinets in black. I know it sounds horrible, but the wall colors are so bright and I think the black will make it look crisper, and less easter-eggy. So now I have to spend even more money to buy a can of black paint - and hope I like the outcome. I dread the thought of doing all that work, spendin all that money, and hating the result.

Well, enough stalling....

For the sake of unity

In my recent post, Do You Love God?, I ended with a list of commitments for fostering/preserving unity in the body of Christ (which I pulled from my Aug. 08 Tabletalk Magazine). Well, my friend Nahomi at www.couragetotremble.wordpress.com responded on her blog with three more very worthy commitments.

"I would like to add some more to the list:

"I will endevour to recognise the practices of my church that fall under the nonessentials category. So that we may not ever bind on others or teach as divine doctrine what is but the mere precept of man. I will try to distinguish between application/practice (that came from the minds of godly, albeit fallible, men) and the underlying Biblical doctrine (that came from the immutable word of God).

"I will endevour to impress upon my forgetful and ungrateful heart the fact that I have been forgiven much (and continue to be forgiven much) and must therefore be gracious and patient with those who appear to me to lack in their understanding in some areas.

"I will endevour to use terms like Calvinist, Arminian, Antinomian, Sabbatarian, Anti-sabbatarian, Hyper-calvinist, Dispensationalist, and Covenantalist only for purposes of understanding theological concepts but not to label or look down on any group consisting also of persons for whom the Lord Jesus shed His blood."

Friday, September 26, 2008

We missed it...

We missed the big one, the big holiday, the one we've been waiting for all year... National Punctuation Day. Apparently it was on September 24. Well, my theory is this: Paul went and whited it out of my calendar so I couldn't use it as an excuse to tease him for being anti-comma.

Click here for the hilarious thoughts of a professional copy editor about this under-appreciated day: http://www.boundlessline.org/2008/09/lapsing-into-a.html.

An amazing resource...

Okay, I'm on a link jag, I know. This time you can blame David Porter over at www.boomerinthepew.com.

But this site, http://www.marshillaudio.org/default.asp, has an incredible slection of deeply thoughtful, educational, and culturally/timely relevant audio. I'm sitting here listening to a discussion on how our modern culture trains us to be cynical, and how we as believers can be aware of it, and combat it in our own lives. There are hundreds of such things available, to listen to online or download to MP3. (By the way, in case you were wondering, this is not an affiliate of Mars Hill Church.)

This is a really incredible resource.

Denise & Christina -this link's for you...

Well, and anyone else who's curious about life in the womb.

GE has created a 4D timeline of images of fetal development from six weeks to birth. Check it out. http://www.gehealthcare.com/usen/patient/ultrasound/obtimeline_new.html

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Got the economy on the brain?

Well, leave it again to Al Mohler to bring clear thinking back to the surface. I honestly don't know how he managed to pack so much information and hope into such a tight package. Check it out, you'll be informed and encouraged: http://www.albertmohler.com/blog_read.php?id=2550

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Do you love God?

Do you love God? How do you know? Is love for God synonymous with obedience? Is obedience enough, or does there need to be a warm affection connected with it? Do you ever wonder if you really love God, or what that even means, or how it looks? I've been pondering these questions over the last few days. I've gone around and around with the Scriptures on this, and what I've found has been both convicting and challenging.

A while back, Paul and I arrived at 1 John in our nightly Scripture reading. It's a familiar book and I rather assumed I knew what it had to say. But reading aloud, hearing the words as they came out of my mouth, I became perplexed. I didn't understand it. Oh, the words were clear, but the train of thought - the logic of it entirely escaped me. John seemed to me to be talking in circles. (Paul said he ended up feeling the same way.) I guess when I've read it before, I haven't slowed down enough to notice I didn't understand, just grabbed at the famous passages and skimmed the rest (a horrible habit). I'd love to say I immediately set myself to find out what that letter is all about, but instead I filed it in my brain under, "something to think about later".

So, now it's later, and I'm thinking about what it means to love God; and of course 1 John comes immediately to mind:

"If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world…" 1 John 4:20 - 5:4a

and this:

"We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us, and we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren….My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth." 1 John 3:14-16

And so it goes with John, around in circles, with love for God being displayed by obedience to God's command, God's command being to love the brethren. It seems quite clear from all I've read that the main test of one's love for God is his love for the brethren - the ones begotten of God (Christ and those who are in Christ). Much as "faith without works is dead", "love" for the Father in the absence of love for the brethren is dead as well. Like faith, love is an elusory thing, and a thing easily claimed and easily feigned. Where is the proof of your faith? In your works. Where is the proof of your love for God, in your love for the brethren. If we cannot love the brethren, it could be that what we love is not really God, but the idea of God or the idea of love itself - both abstractions.The clearest way to express our love for God is to love the brethren, to lay down our lives for them. When Christ restored Peter, He told him as much, "Do you love me?" - "Feed my sheep". So, what is the God-ordained way to show our love for our Saviour? Love the brethren.

For some time after my conversion I attended a rather large church, with no membership roll. There were multiple services every Sunday, and a few other fellowships available throughout the week. In that setting there was little accountability and my love for the brethren was not much tested, though, having no frame of reference, I wasn't aware of it at the time. Now I am a member of a small and recently planted church, a necessarily close-knit group. The small size means we are all heavily depended upon to be reliable, to be flexible, and to be there consistently. We can't just bail out when things get difficult - and they do. We've committed ourselves to this body of believers. This ongoing close proximity has meant that we've begun to see each other's warts. We've begun stepping on one another's toes, offending one another, usually unintentionally, but painfully nonetheless. Loving each other no longer seems so easy. It’s much easier to loftily say, "I love God!", than to be there with a warm heart and willing hands for my brother or sister, whose attitudes or opinions I may find tiresome at the moment, or whose needs inconvenience me. So I have found membership in a local church body to be a means of sanctification. It has been a trial and an immense treasure. It has been a proving ground for my faith, and love for God. It has been a refining fire, bringing up one layer after another of foul dross from my heart.

But now I'll move beyond personal sanctification; because there is much more at stake here than proving to myself, that I really love God. Shortly before His death, our Lord prayed these words:
"I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom thou hast given me, for they are thine; all mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them....I do not pray for these only, but also for those who are to believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou has sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me. John 17: 9, 20-23

Our love for one another within the body of Christ is a presentation of the gospel to the world - a testimony to its truth. When the world sees us laying down our lives for one another, they see Christ.

So, what does this look like? Here I'd like to quote at some length from Robert Rothwell's convicting, and practically helpful article in Aug. 2008 Tabletalk Magazine, entitled: "United in Truth and Love":

"...how will the world know we are Christians by our love (John 13:35) when we are lobbing insults at each other because we do not like anyone to disagree with us over baptism, the Sabbath, eschatology, and so on? Believe me, the pagan does not see us as one in the Spirit when we all confess the Nicene Creed and then tear down each other over the time of the rapture. The unbeliever also has difficulty understanding how Christians can possibly love one another when we are dispersed across many different denominations....I...want to be someone who, without sacrificing truth, embraces the spirit of love and unity....To that end I have made several commitments:

"First, I will strive not to disrupt the unity of the individual church of which I am a member. This means that I will endeavor never to grumble to my leaders nor join with other members who might disparage them behind their backs (Heb. 13:17). I will submit to the elders in every decision until the day they deny the Gospel itself, which, Lord willing, shall never happen. In other words, I will not make my opinions the standard by which I evaluate my church.

"Second, I will maintain contact with my Christian friends who do not attend my church....May I never be unconcerned with how God is moving in other parts of the body of Christ."

"Third, I will seek to understand the nonessential doctrines found in other traditions in order that I might respect them and not dismiss them outright. If all believers did this, our thoughts and discussions would be more civil. We might even learn from each other and find a new consensus on issues that might promote visible unity."

"My fourth commitment is to pray for peace and purity of the church. My heart is not yet as broken as it should be over the disunity of the church, and only the Holy Spirit can make me long truly and deeply for Christians to be one again. Without such longing, I will not be motivated to work for unity of the church."

I would like to commit my heart to these things as well. May my heart and yours long for the love and unity in the church which will display the gospel of Christ to the world.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Okay, one more...

I haven't the time to do much writing of my own for the moment. But here is something that every Christian should read. This one hits me really close to home. Those of you who have known me for any length of time know that I am responsible for the care of my 86 year old mother. Her health is stable at the moment, but her quality of life is terrible. She's not by nature a very happy woman, and less so now that she has lost her independence. Were I not a Christian I could find myself sharing the sentiments described in the link that follows; but I AM a Christian, and see that her life has meaning and value, to her (whether she recognizes it or not) and to me, though seeing her this way is difficult and painful. God has ordained this period in her life, just as he ordained her infancy - an even more helpless condition. Because she's not as cute as her infant self was, does not negate her worth. Because she's closer to the end of her life than she was in the beginning does not negate her value (she's not a car, but a person created in the image of God). Our life's value is not to be measured by the amount of pleasure we are able to give others, or the amount of service, or of the amount of time we may or may not have left. This time my mother has lived this way is purposed by God, and has great value to me, if not often in pleasure, in deeper ways, ways leading to growth, patience, maturity (I hope).

That said, here's the link: http://www.albertmohler.com/blog_read.php?id=2542

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Religious Affections - The Fifth Sign

This is the latest in my participation in Reading the Classics over at http://www.challies.com/ .
We're currently working our way through Jonathan Edwards' classic Religious Affections.

Religious Affections, The Fifth Sign

I found this section a bit more difficult to get a handle on than those previous, but, as usual, Edwards' way of restating the same thing in different ways, from different angles, over and over, finally got through my thick skull. This was not the section to try to read at bedtime. Once I caught on, however, I was amazed to recognize my pre-converted self yet again; and yet again received much understanding and encouragement.

There were a few years where my "Christianity" mainly involved reading and affirming things folks like Josh McDowell and CRI and ICR put out. (Mind you, I'm not diminishing the value of those things in the least.) I was constantly proving the truth of Christianity to myself and keeping myself convinced. My "faith" was entirely based upon arguments and evidences. Eventually, however, those proofs and arguments, convincing though they were, were not enough to hold me and I drifted. When it became clear to me that Christ demanded of me my life, I set my Bible aside, for over 7 years.

Later, shortly after my conversion, I picked up a volume by Josh McDowell and read about how the Bible as we know it came into being. I literally wept at the beauty of the sovereign providence of God throughout history. I find it interesting that since my conversion, I've never seriously doubted the veracity of the Gospel; instead I've doubted the legitimacy of my conversion. During the years when I falsely professed faith in Christ, I did not doubt my salvation, but the truth of the Gospel.

And here's how Edward puts it:
"...the great doctrines of the gospel cease to be any longer doubtful things, or matters of opinion, which, though probable, are yet disputable; but with them , they are points settled and determined, as undoubted and indisputable; so that they are not afraid to venture their all upon their truth. Their conviction is an effectual conviction; so that the great, spiritual, mysterious, and invisible things of the gospel have the influence of real and certain things upon them; they have the weight and power of real things in their hearts; and accordingly rule in their affections, and govern them through the course of their lives.....these things are of great weight with them, and have a mighty power upon their hearts, and influence over their practice, in some measure answerable to their infinite importance."

"But to have a conviction, so clear, and evident, and assuring, as to be sufficient to induce them, with boldness, to sell all, confidently and fearlessly to run the venture of the loss of all things, and of enduring the most exquisite and long-continued torments, and to trample the world under foot, and count all things but dung, for Christ..."

Faith that is genuine changes everything for us, and makes us so convinced of the beauty of Christ and the Gospel that we will count everything else rubbish.

"There are many persons who have been exceedingly raised with religious affections, and think they have been converted, they don't go about the world any more convinced of the truth of the gospel, than they used to be; or at least, there is no remarkable alteration; they are not men who live under the influence and power of a realizing conviction of the infinite and eternal things which the gospel reveals; if they were it would be impossible for 'em to live as they do."

"...but when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed. Now theLord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." 2 Cor. 3:16-18

And as to why, since my conversion, I've been prone to doubt my salvation, and so routinely cry out for the Saviour, I can apply these words from Edwards: "...the same taste which relishes the sweetness of true moral good, tastes the bitterness of moral evil. And by this means a man sees his own sinfulness and loathsomeness; for he has now a sense to discern objects of this nature; and so sees the truth of what the Word of God declares concerning the exceeding sinfulness of mankind, which before he did not see. He now sees the dreadfull pollution of his heart, and the desperate depravity of his nature, in a new manner; for his soul has now a sense given it to feel the pain of such a disease; and this shows him the truth of what the Scripture reveals concerning the corruption of man's nature, his original sin, and the ruinous undone condition man is in, and his need of a Saviour, his need of the might power of God to renew his heart and change his nature.

And all this also stands to show, you don't have to be a brain surgeon, rocket scientist, or philosopher to experience God's salvation. A world full of proofs and arguments is not enough to save a single soul. All such arguments are meaningless unless the Holy Spirit lifts the veil. Edwards, speaking of the multitudes who have been martyred for the sake of the Gospel since the days of the Reformation, has this to say: "how few of them were there, that we can reasonably suppose, ever came by their assured persuasion, this way; or indeed for whom it was possible, reasonably to receive so full and strong an assurance, from such arguments! Many of them were weak women and children, and the greater part of them illiterate persons, many of whom had been brought up in popish ignorance and darkness, and were but newly come out of it, and lived and died in times, wherein those arguments for the truth of Christianity from antiquity and history, had been but very imperfectly handled. And indeed, 'tis but very lately that these arguments have been set in a clear and convincing light, even by learned men themselves; and since it has been done, there never were fewer thorough believers, among those who have been educated in the true religion: infidelity never prevailed so much in any age, as in this, wherein these arguments are handled to the greatest advantage." (How 'bout the irony of that last bit!)

This certainly provides hope and comfort for our evangelistic & missionary efforts. I love what Scott Anderson quoted in Comment #1: "if someone can talk you into it then someone else can talk you out of it "

So, once again, a lot to chew on.

(All emphasis mine.)

Here's another link ...

- this time about the comfort that comes from the knowledge of the sovereignty of God:

http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/1395_all_gods_musts_require_trust/#LinksToThisPost

Here's a link for you creative gals...

Okay girls, here's a nice little decorating-type site for you - the kind of stuff regular folks on regular budgets (or less than regular budgets) can get into. It appears to be put together by a pack of regular gals as well: http://openhouse.homegoods.com/

(I found this on the blog of a new visitor to my site, the wife of a Lutheran minister in Missouri: http://countingmyblessings.typepad.com/)

Devo Alert

Here's the link to Paul's latest devotional. It's the first in what should turn out to be a three-parter on Acts 10: http://possumbane.livejournal.com/414971.html

Oh, by the way, we're down to one computer at the moment (Paul's died the death - possibly just the power source); so, between my husband, myself, and my teenage son, time for posting is limited.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Trig's 15 minutes has gone a long way...

This little moment of fame for one Downs Syndrome child has apparently already accomplished a lot. It's got an influential group of Canadian doctors up in arms with concern that seeing this child might prevent mothers from aborting their possibly Downs Syndrome infants: http://www.albertmohler.com/blog_read.php?id=2454.

Election politics aside, and opinions of Sarah Palin aside, (and I will refuse to discuss election politics on my blog as well as in most other places) I must say that , this has been a golden moment for Downs Syndrome children, those living and those not-yet conceived. As a woman at high "risk" for giving birth to such a child, should I by some miracle actually conceive in the first place, I'm glad to see anything that would make the world a more welcoming place for my hypothetical Downs Syndrome child, and of course for those very real, living and breathing children who are truly just the remnants - the 10% or so who have survived this particular secret holocaust.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I got tagged for a meme...

Tagged by
jilrani

1. How many songs are on your Ipod? my Ipod technically belongs to my husband, but he keeps a file of sermons and lectures for me to listen to while I'm at work. (He has 8433 songs.)

2. What do you do before bedtime? Paul goes to bed earlier than I. So I read the Bible with him in bed, then, while he sleeps, I do dishes, laundry, blog....until my bedtime, when I read a bit before falling to sleep.

3. What magazines do you have subscriptions to? Smithsonian & Tabletalk

4. What is your favorite sound? expository preaching (and in particular the comforting voices of R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, John Piper, and strangely enough, James White).

5. If you had a million dollars that you could spend only on yourself, what would you do with it? pay off my mortgage and do all our home improvements (especially fencing in the back yard), get medical insurance and get a check-up for everyone in my family - pets included, buy a new computer and a copier for the church (I know that's not for me, but I do the bulletins, so in a way it is for me), build up our personal library, get a new pair of reading glasses, oh, and take my car to the shop. I can't really think of anything else.

6 What is your theme song? Before I was a Christian, it would probably have been Blasphemous Rumours, by Depeche Mode, not because it was my favorite, but because it represented my outlook. I'm not sure I have one now (I'm not a very musical person), but if I had to pick it would be either How Great Thou Art or Great is Thy Faithfulness.

7. Do you trust easily? No, I don't think so. But Paul would say I trust too easily. It depends on the situation.

8. Do you generally think before you act or act before you think? think first.

9. Is there anything that makes you unhappy these days? yes, pre-election vitriol

10. Do you have a good body image? I guess, I try not to think about it.

11. Is being tagged fun? Usually

12. What websites do you visit daily? Live Journal, my blog and friends' blogs, email, CNN, the local newspaper

13. What have you been addicted to lately? nothing, unless you want to count the Internet

14.What kind of person do you think is the person who tagged you? smart, industrious, loyal, devout

15. What's the last song that got stuck in your head? Come Thou fount of every blessing....

16.What's your favorite item of clothing? my olive drab shorts

17. What's your favorite cereal? granola

18. What would you do if you saw $100 lying on the ground? pick it up. If there were no people around I would keep it. If folks were nearby I would probably ask if someone lost some money....

19. What items could you not go without during the day? "could" is a strong term, so food and water. "Would" is a bit different, things I'd miss if I didn't have them. I'd say my husband, my Bible or some related literature, my kids, my pets, food, Diet Pepsi, my cell phone, chapstick.

20. What should you be doing right now? pulling dinner out of the oven. Which I'll go do right now

Higgs boson webcam

Here's one I got a kick out of: http://www.cyriak.co.uk/lhc/lhc-webcams.html

Friday, September 12, 2008

Paul's devotional

Good grief, I nearly forgot to post the link to Paul's latest devotional. The theme of this one is Reformation Day. Don't miss it; it's a doozy! http://possumbane.livejournal.com/411384.html

The Doctrines of Grace make a difference

My pastor sent this out this morning via e-mail. I've posted it here for my future reference, and for the benifit of those who may not have read it already. It is very concise, very helpful, and very true. These are the effects the Doctrines of Grace have had upon me.


Ten Effects of Believing in the Five Points of Calvinism by Dr. John Piper
(April 20, 2002)
These ten points are my personal testimony to the effects of believing in the five points of Calvinism. I have just completed teaching a seminar on this topic and was asked by the class members to post these reflections so they could have access to them. I am happy to do so. They, of course, assume the content of the course, which is available on tape from Desiring God Ministries, but I will put them here for wider use in the hope that they might stir others to search, Berean-like, to see if the Bible teaches what I call "Calvinism."

1. These truths make me stand in awe of God and lead me into the depth of true God-centered worship.
I recall the time I first saw, while teaching Ephesians at Bethel College in the late '70's, the threefold statement of the goal of all God's work, namely, "to the praise of the glory of his grace" (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14).It has led me to see that we cannot enrich God and that therefore his glory shines most brightly not when we try to meet his needs but when we are satisfied in him as the essence of our deeds. "From him and through him and to him are all things. To him the glory forever" (Romans 11:36). Worship becomes an end in itself.It has made me feel how low and inadequate are my affections, so that the Psalms of longing come alive and make worship intense.

2. These truths help protect me from trifling with divine things.
One of the curses of our culture is banality, cuteness, cleverness. Television is the main sustainer of our addiction to superficiality and triviality.God is swept into this. Hence the trifling with divine things.Earnestness is not excessive in our day. It might have been once. And, yes, there are imbalances in certain people today who don't seem to be able to relax and talk about the weather.Robertson Nicole said of Spurgeon, "Evangelism of the humorous type [we might say, church growth of the marketing type] may attract multitudes, but it lays the soul in ashes and destroys the very germs of religion. Mr. Spurgeon is often thought by those who do not know his sermons to have been a humorous preacher. As a matter of fact there was no preacher whose tone was more uniformly earnest, reverent and solemn" (Quoted in The Supremacy of God in Preaching, p. 57).

3. These truths make me marvel at my own salvation.
After laying out the great, God-wrought salvation in Ephesians 1, Paul prays, in the last part of that chapter, that the effect of that theology will be the enlightenment of our hearts so that we marvel at our hope, and at the riches of the glory of our inheritance, and at the power of God at work in us – that is, the power to raise the dead.Every ground of boasting is removed. Brokenhearted joy and gratitude abound.The piety of Jonathan Edwards begins to grow. When God has given us a taste of his own majesty and our own wickedness, then the Christian life becomes a thing very different than conventional piety. Edwards describes it beautifully when he says,The desires of the saints, however earnest, are humble desires: their hope is a humble hope, and their joy, even when it is unspeakable, and full of glory, is humble, brokenhearted joy, and leaves the Christian more poor in spirit, and more like a little child, and more disposed to a universal lowliness of behavior (Religious Affections, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959, pp. 339f).

4. These truths make me alert to man-centered substitutes that pose as good news.
In my book, The Pleasures of God (2000), pp. 144-145, I show that in the 18th century in New England the slide from the sovereignty of God led to Arminianism and thence to universalism and thence to Unitarianism.

The same thing happened in England in the 19thcentury after Spurgeon.Iain Murray's Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1987), p. 454, documents the same thing: "Calvinistic convictions waned in North America. In the progress of the decline which Edwards had rightly anticipated, those Congregational churches of New England which had embraced Arminianism after the Great Awakening gradually moved into Unitarianism and universalism, led by Charles Chauncy."

You can also read in J. I. Packer's Quest for Godliness (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990), p. 160, how Richard Baxter forsook these teachings and how the following generations reaped a grim harvest in the Baxter church in Kidderminster.

These doctrines are a bulwark against man-centered teachings in many forms that gradually corrupt the church and make her weak from the inside, all the while looking strong or popular.1 Timothy 3:15, "The church of the living God [is] the pillar and bulwark of the truth."

5. These truths make me groan over the indescribable disease of our secular, God-belittling culture.
I can hardly read the newspaper or look at a TV ad or a billboard without feeling the burden that God is missing.When God is the main reality in the universe and is treated as a non-reality, I tremble at the wrath that is being stored up. I am able to be shocked. So many Christians are sedated with the same drug as the world. But these teachings are a great antidote.And I pray for awakening and revival.And I try to preach to create a people that are so God-saturated that they will show and tell God everywhere and all the time.We exist to reassert the reality of God and the supremacy of God in all of life.

6. These truths make me confident that the work which God planned and began, he will finish – both globally and personally.
This is the point of Romans 8:28-39.And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died- more than that, who was raised- who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

7. These truths make me see everything in the light of God's sovereign purposes – that from him and through him and to him are all things, to him be glory forever and ever.
All of life relates to God. There's no compartment where he is not all-important and the one who gives meaning to everything. 1 Corinthians 10:31. Seeing God's sovereign purpose worked out in Scripture, and hearing Paul say that "he accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will" (Ephesians 1:11) makes me see the world this way.

8. These truths make me hopeful that God has the will, the right, and the power to answer prayer that people be changed.
The warrant for prayer is that God may break in and change things – including the human heart. He can turn the will around. "Hallowed be thy name" means: cause people to hallow your name. "May your word run and be glorified" means: cause hearts to be opened to the gospel.We should take the New Covenant promises and plead with God to bring them to pass in our children and in our neighbors and among all the mission fields of the world.

"God, take out of their flesh the heart of stone and give him a new heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 11:19).

"Lord, circumcise their hearts so that they love you" (Deuteronomy 30:6).

"Father, put your spirit within them and cause them to walk in Your statutes" (Ezekiel 36:27).

"Lord, grant them repentance and the knowledge of the truth that they may escape from the snare of the devil" (2 Timothy 2:25-26).

"Father, open their hearts so that they believe the gospel" (Acts 16:14).

9. These truths remind me that evangelism is absolutely essential for people to come to Christ and be saved, and that there is great hope for success in leading people to faith, but that conversion is not finally dependent on me or limited by the hardness of the unbeliever.
So it gives hope to evangelism, especially in the hard places and among the hard peoples.

John 10:16, "I have other sheep that are not of this fold, I must bring them also. They will heed my voice."

It is God's work. Throw yourself into it with abandon.

10. These truths make me sure that God will triumph in the end.
Isaiah 46:9-10, "I am God and there is no other. I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, "My counsel shall stand that I will accomplish all my purpose'"Putting them altogether: God gets the glory and we get the joy.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org.Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Religious Affections, the Fourth Sign

(This is a contination of my participation in http://www.challies.com/ Reading the Classics Together on-line reading group.)

I found this chapter really helpful. I come from a non-reformed background, where the Scripture was used in just about every way imaginable, but seldom in the way in which God intended it to be used. This chapter has a lot to teach regarding everyday discernment, in the correct use of Scripture, in dealing with others, and our own hearts. It is often the case, within and without the Church, that we encounter people communicating with great passion, and as a result we can be moved, not necessarily by what is actually being said so much as by their forcefulness, and the variety of strong feelings evoked in us. It is critical that we be able to set aside, to the degree necessary for clear thinking, our strong emotional responses to communications that impact our lives, so that we can examine what is actually being said for its truth and value. It is also important to recognize that the people we interact with in our lives are often swayed by strong emotions, which may prohibit them from thinking clearly about any number of issues. We must be careful not to persuade, or be persuaded by, heavy-handed emotions. Strong emotion does not guarantee the rightness or wrongness of any idea or opinion, nor is it a reliable sign of true religious affection.

As Edwards says: "Holy affections are not heat without light; but evermore arise from some information of the understanding, some spiritual instruction that the mind receives, some light or actual knowledge. The child of God is graciously affected, because he sees and understands something more of divine things than he did before, more of God or Christ and of the glorious things exhibited in the gospel; he has some clearer and better view than he had before, when he was not affected.... Knowledge is the key that frst opens the hard heart and enlarges the affections, and so opens the way for men into the kingdom of heaven....
Now there are many affections which don't arise from any light in the understanding. And when it is thus, it is a sure evidence that these affections are not spiritual, let them be ever so high." In other words, if the emotion you are feeling isn't a direct result of a new or clearer understanding of God our Saviour, "the attributes or perfections of his nature", then those emotions/affections are not spiritual, just plain, run-of-the-mill fleshly feelings.

Now, to make this concept stand out more clearly, Edwards does what he so often does, provides contrasts. I often find it very helpful when he begins sweeping away the many things that are not true spiritual affections. As he clears those away it's easier to see what he's pointing at. Here are a a few examples: "...affections arising from texts of Scripture coming to the mind are vain, when no instruction received in the understanding from those texts, or anything taught in those texts, is the ground of the affection, but the manner of their coming to mind. When Christ makes the Scripture a means of the heart's burning with gracious affection, 'tis by opening the Scriptures to their understandings....it appears also that the affection which is occasioned by the coming of a text of Scripture must be vain, when the affection is founded on something that is supposed to be taught by it, which really is not contained in it, nor in any other Scripture; because such supposed instruction is not real instruction, but a mistake, and misapprehension of the mind". This speaks to any number of practices, but one that comes to mind is when a verse of Scripture "jumps out at someone" and is taken to be a promise from God speaking directly to the outcome of their specific circumstance. I read a book once by a woman who started her public ministry (which, by the way, would involve teaching mixed groups of women and men) on a certain date and month of the year because of a passage in the Old Testament which "jumped out at her" in which a certain event progressed on that day. She had taken that to mean that was a word from God as to when she should begin. That is clearly not what that passage was meant to be used for. As Edwards says, "...things be not to be learned from the Scripture any other way than they are taught in the Scripture."

Next is the one that really hit home for me, describing much of what used to keep me interested in my days as a false professor of faith: "...they ascribe many of the workings of their own minds, which they have a high opinion of, and are pleased and taken with, to the special immediate influences of God's Spirit; and so are mightily affected, with their privilege." This is the mindset of one who loves Shakespeare not because they love Shakespeare, but because of how smart it makes them feel that they can read and understand him. Then this mindset is applied to the Scriptures.

Further he says, "'Tis possible that a man might know how to interpret all the types, parables, enigmas, and allegories in the Bible, and not have one beam of spiritual light in his mind; because he mayn't have the least degree of that spiritual sense of the holy beauty of divine things which has been spoken of, and may see nothing of this kind of glory in anything contained in any of these mysteries, or any other part of the Scripture. 'Tis plain, by what the Apostle says, that a man might understand all such mysteries, and have no saving grace; 'And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing' (1 Cor. 13:2). They therefore are very foolish who are exalted in an opinion of thier own spiritual attainments, from notions that come into thier minds, of the mystical meaning of these and those passages of Scripture, as though it was a spiritual understanding of these passages, immediately given 'em by the Spirit of God, and hence have their affection highly raised; and what has been said shows the vanity of such affections."

So it is clear that Edwards goal here is discernment. He says, "...we come necessarily to this conclusion, concerning that wherein spiritual understanding consists; viz. that it consists in a sense of the heart, of the supreme beauty and sweetness of the holiness or moral perfection of divine things, together with all that discerning and knowledge of things of religion, that depends upon, and flows from such a sense.

At this point you may be getting the idea that this is all meant to be a cold, calculated, emotionless thing. Edwards anticipates that and moves on to quickly remedy that notion: "There is a distinction to be made between a mere notional understanding, wherein the mind only beholds things in the exercise of a speculative faculty; and the sense of the heart, wherein the mind don't only speculate and behold, but relishes and feels...more than the mere intellect is concerned; the heart is the proper subject of it....And yet there is the nature of instruction in it; as he that has perceived the sweet taste of honey, knows much more about it, than he who has only looked upon and felt of it."

Edwards then goes to some length to explain for us the right use of Scripture, which I found extremely helpful. Here's a snippet: "Spiritually to understand the Scripture, is rightly to understand what is in the Scripture, and what was in it before it was understood: 'tis to understand rightly, what used to be contained in the meaning of it; and not the making a new meaning.....This making a new meaning to the Scripture, is the same thing as making a new Scripture: it is properly adding to the Word; which is threatened with so dreadful a curse. Spiritually to understand the Scripture, is to have the eyes of the mind opened, to behold the wonderful spiritual excellency of the glorious things contained in the true meaning of it, and that always were contained in it, ever since it was written....Which things are, and always were in theBible, and would have been seen before, if it had not been for blindness, without having any new sense added by the words being sent by God to a particular person, and spoken anew to him, with a new meaning."

(all emphasis is mine)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hippies like us

Have you ever noticed that the folks in the natural food stores seem to be either "hippies" - or Christians.?

Have you ever noticed that Libertarians seem to often be either very left wing - or very right wing?

Paul and I have often commented upon how often "hippies" and Christians find themselves on the same side of things for entirely different reasons. Like the midwife I consulted with (in case of a miracle) - she was a midwife with an acupuncturist/herbologist husband - your standard earth-mother. She smiled with approval that I would refuse to undergo invasive testing to identify if my hypothetical child would be in some way sub-standard, and that I would refuse abortion no matter what. I knew we were on the same page.

I noticed back in my homeschool days, because I homeschooled through a public school district rather than independently, that the homeschool families were fairly evenly divided between Christians and "hippie types".And now I submit to you this: http://news.yahoo.com/s/livescience/20080904/sc_livescience/outtherepeoplewholivewithouttv&printer=1;_ylt=ApngikWXaCXaNi1ynJ0rcuuzvtEF

(Oh, and through all of this understand the term "hippie" to be a loose term, not necessarily implying pot smoking, tie-die, and the Grateful Dead - or anything derogatory at all- but in the same sense as referred to in the above link.)

Oh, and also by the way. I'm doing an experiment where I try cross-posting to both of my blogs, to simplify things for friends on Blogger, 'cause I noticed you can't track a LiveJournal blog on Blogger - unless you can and I'm just too stupid to figure it out.